The 2022 Milwaukee Brewers season was full of promise for so long. They came into the season as favorites to compete with the St. Louis Cardinals and, for much of the season, they ended up leading that race.
Then the second half of the season came, and everything went south. Not only did the Brewers ultimately lose their division lead, on Monday their playoff hopes came to an end, meaning it would be the first time in five years that they wouldn’t be participating in the postseason.
You can point to a number of reasons as to why this happened: an inconsistent offense, a pitching staff that fell below lofty expectations, and numerous other mistakes made along the way. The bottom line is that the team collapsed, which brings to mind another Brewers team from not too long ago.
The 2014 Milwaukee team is notoriously remembered by fans as one that suffered a similar late season collapse. They, too, led their division at one point before ultimately missing the playoffs altogether. Was that as bad of a collapse as fans saw this season, though?
Which Brewers team saw the worse collapse, the 2014 squad or the 2022 one?
The Case for the 2014 Brewers Team
The 2014 Brewers team was stacked with talent. Ryan Braun was back from suspension. Aramis Ramirez had been signed the year before. Carlos Gomez, Jonathan Lucroy, and Francisco Rodriguez combined with Ramirez to give the team four All-Stars that season.
A 7-6 win over the Red Sox in extra innings on April 5th would improve their record to 3-2, putting those Brewers in first place in the NL Central. And for much of the season, it seemed like almost a foregone conclusion that things would end that way, putting them back in the postseason for the first time since 2011.
The 2014 Milwaukee team would reach 19 games over .500 by June 28th of that year. They’d hold their largest division lead shortly after that at 6.5 games on July 1st. At that point, the team’s hitters were 5th in steals, 6th in MLB in slugging and fWAR, and tied for 11th in wRC+.
Then the wheels fell off. A stretch of 10 losses in 11 games to start July dropped them into a tie with the Cardinals for 1st in the NL Central. Milwaukee would keep their grip atop the division for a while until a loss on September 1st officially dropped them into 2nd place for the first time since game four of the season.
And it would get worse from there. The Brewers would win just nine games in that season’s final month, finishing with an 82-80 record and a 3rd place finish in the division after spending 133 games in first. No division title, and after a loss on their 159th game of the season, no playoffs.
The Case for the 2022 Brewers Team
The 2022 Brewers squad may not have come into the season with as many highly regarded offensive names as the 2014 version (outside of former MVPs Christian Yelich and Andrew McCutchen, that is). But they were returning an elite pitching staff led by 2022 NL Cy Young Corbin Burnes and three-time NL Reliever of the Year Josh Hader.
This team would stumble a bit out of the gate, losing three of their first four as some of their big starters got beat up a bit in their first starts. But with a 1-0 win over the Phillies in their 16th game of the season, they would take the lead in the NL Central for the first time.
Milwaukee would never take major control of the division, though. The biggest lead they ever had this year was 4.5 games. The highest they would ever stretch their record was 14 games over .500. And they would end up spending just 81 games in first place in the end.
After losing the division lead to the Cardinals on August 6th, shortly after a trade deadline that went horribly for the team, the Brewers would never regain it. The Brewers finished with an 86-76 record.
Recency bias sure makes it feel like the current Brewers team had the bigger collapse. They had a team with high expectations who experts were predicting would at worst reach the playoffs, let alone win their division. If not for a trade deadline that messed with team chemistry, they might have made it.
But the 2014 team spent much more time in first place in the NL Central, peaked at more games above .500, and somehow finished with a worse record and farther down the division standings than the 2022 will. Whether you want to believe it or not, the 2014 Brewers had the worse collapse.
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In the end, it doesn’t matter who had the worse collapse. All that does matter is what the Brewers will do to ensure it doesn’t happen again next season.